Submitted by DispatchHealth
A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine says medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States, which estimates more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. In addition to these deaths, how many more may have gone unreported? Just like car accidents, medical errors can and do happen. By adopting a few key strategies, you can help reduce the chance or prevent medical errors from happening to you or your family.
Good communication is an essential element of a good healthcare experience. There are two levels to this conversation: improving the communication between medical providers and their patients as well as the discussions between medical providers. Preparing to ask the right questions is key to making each 10 to 15 minutes with your medical provider count! Prepare for your appointment by gathering information go to My Family Health Portrait [familyhistory.hhs.gov] and you can fill out, save, update AND distribute your family history to physicians and family members to assist in the individualization of your healthcare.
Make a written list of questions for your doctor before you go. Doctors will be less likely to leave the room before you ask all your questions if he sees you have a written list.
Doctors no longer pick up the phone to talk with one another. Today, the standard is for medical providers to send reports to each other but you must let the physician know who to send them to. Also the “lag time” can be a problem. Studies show for example, that hospital discharge summary receipt time is severely lacking.
- 29 percent in two weeks of discharge
- 52 percent in four weeks of discharge
- 25 percent never received by Doctor
- Incomplete discharge summary
- More than 15 percent of the time clinical information was missing from the discharge summary
Don’t expect or assume medical records will be sent to another provider or to your PCP or specialist. Get a copy and take it with you to each appointment. Better safe than sorry.
Advocate for yourself to get what you need. If you have a family member or friend that is not afraid to speak up on your behalf, take them with you to your appointments or the hospital. Asking questions and having a second set of ears when a physician is giving information can be very valuable. A hospital nurse could do the same, but remember that same nurse likely will not be there the next day as they typically work 12-hour shifts three days per week.
When in the hospital, you likely will not have your primary physician following you. The “hospitalist” is the doctor that sees you daily and ultimately decides when you will be going home. Many times, the specialist and doctor do not talk to each other, they just read each other’s chart notes, so take notes of your own or ask someone to do it for you! You may want to ask the physicians to write down their name or give you a card when they come so you are clear who is seeing you and what their role is in your care.
While you are not sick, consider getting a POA for healthcare and advanced directives completed. A document like Five Wishes can help you make the choices required, so if you are in a state where you cannot make your own medical decisions, your Power of Attorney for Healthcare can follow your wishes.
Researching physicians, hospitals, and treatments can save a lot of disappointment and cost and improve your chance of a good outcome. There are many ways to treat disease, and newer isn’t always better. Beyond traditional medicine is integrative or functional medicine that can help identify the underlying cause of disease, rather than the focus being on prescribing a medication to treat the symptoms. Chronic disease is rarely managed only with medication. Remember that just because it is covered by insurance, doesn’t mean it is good care. Physicians can be researched through the state medical association to be sure they do not have any actions against them. Naturopathic physicians can be researched through online search tools.
If you need to choose a hospital or skilled nursing facility, do your due diligence to compare their quality ratings. Hospitals can be compared by patient reviews online as can long-term skilled care facilities or rehab centers.
Costs of traditional treatments may also be unnecessary. Asking questions about your treatment and need for testing while visiting your physician is vital, and online tools, as evaluated by physician peers in each specialty, can also be a helpful tool.
Don’t forget your right to a second opinion. Physicians may have different approaches or treatments to the same disease or illness or surgery. It is your responsibility to be sure you are making the right choice for you.
Many people seem to spend more time researching and shopping for a new TV than they do for healthcare.
Educate yourself about your illness or disease. Some helpful places to find information are disease-specific organizations devoted to advocacy, research, and understanding of prevalent diseases. Understand that you can find nearly anything on the internet, so be conscious of the sites where you find information and make sure they are reputable.
Educate yourself about all the medications you are taking; 106,000 deaths per year are due to adverse drug reactions. Having a list of your current medications and allergies is necessary and is now practiced by many. Have you ever looked yourself to see if any of the supplements or medications you are taking interact with each other? Information is available online that can help you look for those possible interactions, and you can bring the results of your research to your physician’s attention. Researching and knowing the potential side effects to your medications can help you relate a new medication to new symptoms or to initiate a conversation with your pharmacist or physician about any possible interactions between drugs. Medications can also deplete nutrients. Nutrient depletions can cause symptoms, too. For example, statins, used to reduce cholesterol, cause depletion of CoQ10, which leads to muscle pain. Any new medication has the potential to interact with your ongoing medications or to cause side effects; educate yourself about your possible risks.
Take a leading role in your own safety. When hospitalized, ask everyone that enters your room to wash their hands. Ask your nurse to identify all medications and dose amount before you take them. Confirm that doctors and nurses are aware of your allergies. Consider having a notebook that all doctors write their name in when they stop to see you. Days go by quickly in the hospital, and it will get hard to remember who saw you when and what they said.
Many errors occur with transitions of care, especially when changing care location, like when you move to another floor, hospital, rehab, or even home. At the time of the move or discharge, be sure the hospital doctor has a copy of the medications you were taking prior to the hospitalization so that you are sure what you should resume after discharge. Remember, most discharge summaries are incomplete or are not delivered to the receiving facility or even your primary care.
Don’t be a statistic; speak up. This means that if you do not understand what the physician is saying, you must ask more questions. Remember, it is your right to refuse treatment until you understand what is happening, and that alone will give you a chance at better outcomes.
DispatchHealth brings an ER-trained medical team to your doorstep to treat anything an urgent care can, plus more.
DispatchHealth partners with the medical community to work as an extension of the existing care team. They currently services parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Ahwatukee, Tempe, Chandler, Sun Lakes, Glendale, Peoria, and will continue to expand their service area. They accept all major insurance including Medicare and Medicaid.
Requesting care is easy. Call 480-493-3444, visit www.DispatchHealth.com, or download our app. Dispatch Health offices are open 8am to 8pm, 356 days a year, including all holidays.
About the Author:
Mary Aime’-Juedes RN, BSN, iRNPA has more than 28 years of varied nursing experience, all of which have prepared her for her role of Personal RN Patient Advocate, for which she is extremely passionate. Mary can be contacted at email@example.com, by phone: 480-703-0699, or at www.rnpaofscottsdale.com. RN Patient Advocates of Scottsdale, PLLC is located in Scottsdale.
Sources available upon request
Easy steps to prepare for your appointment:
- Ask someone to go to your appointment with you to help you understand and remember answers to your questions.
- Create a health history that includes your current conditions and past surgeries or illnesses. Bring it to your appointment.
- Know your family’s health history, such as your parents’ health conditions.
- Bring all your medicines with you.
The 10 questions to ask your physcian:
- What is the test for?
- How many times have you done this procedure?
- When will I get the results?
- Why do I need this treatment?
- Are there any alternatives?
- What are the possible complications?
- Which hospital is best for my needs?
- How do you spell the name of that drug?
- Are there any side effects?
- Will this medicine interact with medicines that I’m already taking?
Online Health Resources
Physician Research Tools — azmd.org, ratemd.com, healthgrades.com
Naturopathic physicians — naturopathic.org, aznma.com
Hospital comparison tools — consumerhealthratings.com, healthgrades.com
Long-term care and rehab facilities — medicare.gov, healthgrades.com
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